The world is getting smaller: thanks to the internet, we can now communicate and do business with people across the globe. The only barrier that now remains is language.
As such, it comes as no surprise that the demand for translations is constantly increasing. From company websites and advertising designed to attract international customers, to translations for the travel & tourism sector – translation is needed in all industries.
So how much do translations cost?
What types of translation services are there?
And, perhaps most importantly, is it worth paying for a professional translation?
Read on to find the answers to all of these questions about the cost of translation and more.
What types of translation services are there?
If you want to translate your content from English into another language (such as Spanish, French or German) or into English (e.g. German to English translations) then you basically have three options. And, needless to say, there are pros and cons for each.
- Google Translate and other machine translations
Everyone has heard of Google Translate. If you are trying to understand a foreign-language website or you are abroad and want to know what a sign means then Google Translate is the quickest way of finding the answer. And it is free. We all know and love Google Translate, but it has its limits. As with any machine translation tool, there is one thing it cannot deliver: error-free results.
Machine translation may be fast and cost-effective, but it soon reaches its limits, especially if you are translating complex sentences or exotic language combinations. Depending on the amount of text you are translating and the purpose of the translation, it is well worth getting the final version proofread by a professional. It is likely that the translation will need some improving.
- Do it yourself!
Lots of people (especially in mainland Europe) can speak a second language to a high level. In Germany, for example, English is taught as a compulsory second language. If you are a non-native speaker and want to keep the cost of translation down, you may be able to translate the text yourself. It will certainly take longer than Google Translate, but the result will probably be better, depending on your command of the target language, of course. The only costs you have here are your own time and the possible additional cost of a professional proofreader.
- A professional translator
If you want to make sure that your content is translated properly and to a high standard, there is really only one option: a professional translation service. Of course, working with a professional translator will cost more than translating the document yourself, but you may well save yourself a lot of time, effort and even money in the long run, as I will explain later.
Not all professional translators are the same and it is important that you choose the right translator for your individual project. If you want more help finding the right translation company, check out this article on the LEaF blog.
Free translations can be costly
We have taken a look at the different ways that you can get your text translated into or from English and the disadvantages that the cheaper options entail. The truth is, if your sole focus is on keeping the price as low as possible, it can end up costing you more in the long run.
Even though technology has made impressive steps forward, machine translation still doesn’t represent a standalone translation service. It should never be used as the sole means of translation, especially when you are translating text that you are going to use in a professional capacity.
When the German term “Kernseife” (washing soap) is translated as “nuclear soap” and “Herrengedeck” (German for a beer and a shot of schnapps) as “Mr Gedeck” you can’t help but smile.
But it is not a good look for your company website. Machine translation also has trouble coping with grammar and context. In short, a machine-translated sales page on your website is more likely to raise the eyebrows of your customers than convince them to buy your product.
And this is the crux of the issue and the reason you could end up paying a high price for these “free” translations: they make your foreign-language content look unprofessional. Your website content is your main tool for acquiring new customers. You want to give them the impression that they have found the perfect place to shop or the perfect service provider. But a badly translated website can really put people off. You might have a really fantastic product, but you don’t ever make any sales, because potential customers are put off by poor translations that make your brand look unprofessional.
And creating a bad impression is not the only problem. Incorrect translations can also lead to misunderstandings. If a product is described incorrectly and the customer receives something different to what they thought they had ordered, you can end up paying for it. A situation easily avoided by investing in a professional translation service provided by a professional translator or translation company. If you want to find out more about Google Translate and the other hidden costs of free translations, take a look at this article on the LEaF blog.
The Native Speaker Principle
Are you confident about your grasp of your second language? Do you intend to translate your text yourself? It is a great way to avoid the often serious errors found in machine translations, and the only cost involved is your own time. But, a word of caution: translating a few sentences here and there and perhaps a title or two is not likely to cause too much of a problem if you have a good level of the target language; but if you are thinking about translating longer pieces of text, it is worth considering the Native Speaker Principle. It is a cornerstone of professional translation, and we have written all about it in a separate blog, if you want to find out more.
It basically says that translators should always translate into their native language, and with good reason:
- Even though you may be amazing at your second language and may have no trouble understanding texts and translating them into your mother tongue, it doesn’t mean that you can write this second language perfectly, nor that you can translate into this language correctly. Native speakers handle language in a completely different way to non-native speakers. Texts written by native speakers tend to have a more natural flow to them.
- This is especially important when it comes to producing a natural-sounding translation. There is a lot more to translation than knowing a lot of vocab. We have all come across texts that have been translated “correctly” but that just don’t sound quite right. Translation is not just about swapping one word for another. You need to know the language inside out to be able to create a perfect translation.
- This is generally what separates native speakers from non-native speakers. Most translations aren’t actually 1:1 translations; instead they are localisations. The aim is to convey the context, tone and flow of the original into the target language. You can, of course, translate “Ich glaube mein Schwein pfeift” (a German expression meaning “I don’t believe it!”) with “I think my pig whistles”, but it makes zero sense in English and would just confuse the reader.
If you want to create the best possible impression and properly convey the meaning of the original text, make sure you follow the Native Speaker Principle.
How are translation rates calculated?
You may now have decided to opt for a professional translator, so that you can be sure to get the best possible result for your translation. The only question left concerns price.
Let’s now take a look at how prices are calculated for translations. There are different ways to calculate a translation rate and various factors that affect the price.
Prices are often given per line or per word of the source text. One line is equivalent to 55 characters (including spaces). Translation prices are also sometimes based on the overall length of the text, and discounts may be offered for larger projects.
Type of text
The difficulty of the text also plays a decisive role. There is a big difference between translating a complex medical text and a flyer for a travel agency. The format of the text is also relevant. A general rule of thumb: the more complex the task for the translator, the higher the price.
Is the translation especially urgent or do you need the translator to be really flexible regarding changes? These factors can also increase the price. Large translations with a very short deadline tend to incur additional costs.
If your translation is for a specific sector, it can be a good idea to find a translator or agency that specialises in this field. Some translators specialise in advertising, technical translation, finance, legal translations, medical texts or gaming, for example. It may be more expensive to work with an experienced translator for one of these fields, but the quality is likely to be considerably higher than if you work with an inexperienced translator.
Be very cautious about really cheap translations. A cheap translation is not necessarily a bad translation; just as the most expensive translation will not necessarily be the best. But you should proceed with extreme caution when it comes to really cheap translations. There is a very high risk that the translator will not take the necessary time to do the translation, or they might use machine translation and cut corners when it comes to post-editing. Translation takes time and requires a lot of brain power. Fast, cheap translations are often low-quality translations.
What is the average price for a translation?
As I have explained above, there are several variables that affect the cost of a translation. Translation prices can vary massively as a result. As such, it is definitely worth getting a few different quotes before making a final decision. Here is a table outlining the costs you can expect for a translation:
Translation per line:
|Low complexity||High complexity|
|Non-specialised||£0.60 to £1.50||£1.00 to £2.00|
|Highly specialised||£1.00 to £2.00||£1.20 to £3.00|
Translation per word:
|Low complexity||High complexity|
|From £0.12||Up to £0.30|
Translation per hour:
|Standard rate||Minimum rate|
LEaF Translations offers a premium translation service. We have over 14 years’ professional translation experience and yet we are still cheaper than many large translation agencies. This is because we are small and agile and are able to keep our overheads down.
The best way to find out how much it would cost to work with LEaF is to send us an enquiry together with your source text. We will send you a personalised quote in return.
Translation prices FAQs
1) How much does translation cost per word?
Between £0.12 and £0.30
2) How much do translators charge per hour?
The average hourly rate is £50.00; the minimum rate is £25.00
3) How many characters does a standard line contain?
A standard line contains 55 characters with spaces
4) How much does translation cost per line?
Between £0.60 and £3.00, depending on the complexity of the text and the experience of the translator
5) How many words does a standard page contain?
A standard page contains approx. 250 words (1,500 characters)
6) How much does a translation cost per page?
Between £30.00 and £100.00
7) Is it better for translations to be charged by the word or by the hour?
There is some debate within the translation industry over whether it is better to charge by word or by the hour. Traditionally, translation services have been charged by the word and this brings the benefit that clients know exactly how much the translation is going to cost from the outset. But charging by the word gives the impression that all words are equal, when in fact some words can take far longer to translate than others: e.g. translating an advertising slogan or H1 for a company’s homepage versus translating a list of ingredients or a simple sentence in a blog article.
8) How can I ensure that I am paying for a high-quality translation?
Do your research.
Check the testimonials and reviews for the translation company or translator.
Ask for recommendations.
Ensure you work with a translation company that works with native-speaker translators (translating into their native language) and that the price of the translation also includes a round of proofreading.
Finally, go with your gut instinct. If the translation company is promising high-quality translations for a price that is much cheaper than other quotes you have received, they will either be offering post-edited machine translations (where a machine translated is proofread by a translator) or will be working with very cheap translators (who are likely to be either inexperienced or being exploited).
9) Are translation prices negotiable?
Here at LEaF Translations, the prices for our translation services are precisely calculated based on the amount of text to be translated, the language combination, the subject matter, the complexity of the language and the timeframe. We want to offer high-quality translations at the best possible price, but we are also passionate about ethical business and believe that translators and proofreaders should be paid a fair price for their work. Reducing our prices would mean paying our fantastic translators less. As such, the prices we quote are non-negotiable.
10) How can I ensure that I am paying a fair price for my translation?
The best way to ensure that you are paying a fair price for a translation is to get several quotes from different translation companies. If the price is very low, it may seem a fair price to you, but it is likely to mean that the person translating your content is being exploited. Similarly, if the price is very high, you may be being overcharged. It is important to remember that translators are not just people who can speak two languages – experienced professional translators are linguists with a specific skillset, who have spent several years honing their craft and they deserve to be paid accordingly.
Always take care when it comes to free and extremely cheap translations. If you want the text to impress readers or win over potential customers, always try to find a professional translator to help you. Get a few different quotes and find the translator and the price that feels right for you!